Hosokawa-shi is one of the oldest papers made in Japan, still being made by hand in the traditional way.
Hosokawa-shi, is a traditional Japanese handmade paper (Washi) that has been produced by the residents of Ogawa town in Saitama prefecture, on the outskirts of Tokyo. In 1978 the Japanese government designated the technique of making Hosokawa-shi washi, as an important intangible cultural asset. Then in 2014 UNESCO recognised it as an intangible cultural heritage, giving this paper the recognition to Japanese life over the centuries. This is only of only two paper types with this recognition world wide.
The history of paper making in this region dates back to the 8th century. With the increase of population of nearby Edo (Tokyo) from the 17th century onwards it is thought that local villagers started to mass produce paper and stationery for the bigger metropolitan nearby. They were perfectly positioned to nearby Tokyo, as well as, having this high quality craft passed down through generations.
Most papers are made with the inner wood pulp from a tree, that is mashed down with chemicals to form a paper paste. Hosokawa-shi washi is made using the inner side of the bark from the mulberry bush (called kozo) and the Sunset Hibiscus plant. The Kozo gives the paper the strength and golden colour. While the Hibiscus helps with the viscous nature of the solution before it dries and helps to stick the fibres together. This is washed and soaked in clean river stream water during winter. The water is clean and fresh, which plumps and firms up the kozo fibres, in the ice cold water. This is then beaten to separate the individual fibres, before going into a water bath. The fibres are then strained through a bamboo screen to create the sheet of paper. The washi is strong, soft, durable and unlike modern acid papers will not yellow over time from modern chemicals and bleaching.
Hosokawa-shi is the perfect paper to give as a gift, write a personal message on or a way to remember your memories. This traditionally made washi paper has been know to survive for over 1000 years and is used for the Japan national archive as it is resistant to rot, insects and yellowing. This is also the perfect paper to repair an old book or scroll using the same paper.